The brilliant new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is much better than it needs to be

I DIDN’T like the original Active Tourer. I really didn’t. But then again, it wasn’t really meant for me.

It was the preserve of school-run mums and dads who wanted something practical and premium and, er . . . well, that was it.

To them it made no difference that it was the first BMW to betray the marque’s rear-wheel-driven legacy. Or that it looked like an apology.

It could fit their offspring in the back and rode fractionally higher than a hatchback.

It was German and if it wasn’t raining, you could plug it in next to the kettle through the kitchen window.

But to BMW’s credit, the Active Tourer sold incredibly well — and for 80 per cent of buyers, it was their first Beemer.

Since 2014, 430,000 first-generation Active Tourers have found homes. And their rear seats have doubtless never recovered.

But put away the Febreze and leave the suspect crumb-like matter where it is because, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I do like this new one.

Agile and responsive

Vastly better-looking both outside and in, the bulbous crossover-cum-MPV really suits BMW’s enthusiastically engorged nostril grille.

And while the car is longer, wider and higher than the outgoing version, it looks notably more purposeful, in a sporty way now, even though its tell-tale exhaust pipes have been hidden under the rear skirt.

From launch, there is choice of two petrol engines: A four-cylinder 2-litre mild hybrid (218hp) in the 223i, plus a three-cylinder 1.5-litre mild hybrid (170hp) in the 220i, which is the entry-level from £30k.

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There’s a non-hybrid clean diesel in the offing too in the form of the 218d — a four-cylinder 2-litre that will push out 150hp while delivering a fuel-saving 58mpg, for not much more than the base petrol.

All come with BMW’s latest, and rather super, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

However, what you will actually want is one of two plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) which arrive on the menu this summer, priced from around £40k.

The 230e and the 225e are both xDrive models (Beemer speak for 4WD).

They can do an impressive 56 miles on electricity alone and in the case of the more potent 230e, it matches the performance statistics both in power and acceleration of an M3, albeit from four generations ago.

That’s 326hp and 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, which is hilarious for a school-runner.

It feels so much more agile and responsive to drive now, and is frankly much better than it needs to be.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is also the first regular BMW after the futuristic iX and i4 to use the brand’s latest version of iDrive operating system, complete with twin 10in screens.

Controversially, the fingertip-controlled dial, which was BMW’s iDrive signature and loved by just about anyone who has ever used it, has been ditched.

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The reason being that the very flash smartphone-esque software and the compact nature of the interior — which appears to be allergic to buttons — just don’t call for it any more.

And after spending plenty of seat-time in the cushy cockpit complete with floating armrest and massaging, vegan-friendly faux leather recliners, I concur.

This car works. It really works well, all over.

Just as practical as before, it has 470 to 1,455 litres of usable bootspace, 40:20:40 split folding rear seats that slide, much greater EV range, better handling and performance than should be allowed and it is teched up to the nines.

Did BMW really need to go to these lengths for a market that wasn’t really interested in them in the first place?

I’d say no.

But this car is beguilingly brilliant now as a result.

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